Friday, January 30, 2009

Economic Defense Is More Important Than Military

It is funny (by funny I mean so scary that you either laugh or scream.) how the citizens and the politicians take our economic security so much less seriously then out military security. For those taking notes, here is a profound statement that I don’t want slipping by. You can never fully destroy a culture with tanks and bombs. However, you can completely and utterly destroy a culture with economic invasion. When the dust settles the people will just start breeding and rebuilding. Their food, their music, their livelihood will return eventually. Most often even the culture’s form of government and wealth distribution will return. Most defiantly they will not take on the appearance and characteristics of their oppressors. However, invade a society economically, and their children will all be trying to emulate their aggressors. It wasn’t the bombs in Japan that did the most damage to the traditions that defined them. It was the businesses.

You wouldn’t let a foreign army come and use your equipment, weapons, and bases to wage a war against you would you? Then why would you let workers from another country come in and use your facilities to increase their own countries economic viability. Certainly the intelligence agencies have empowered groups with ideologies completely different then those of the US to fight military battles. So far, not once has that not come back to bite them in the ass. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most recent examples. It certainly doesn’t make sense to send monetary value to your enemies so they can buy weapons to use against you. Yet we do it, mostly through oil revenue.

While it makes no sense to do any of the military faux pas expressed above, we think nothing of A) letting foreigners drive the cost of our labor resource down and B) economically empowering cultures that we find morally wrong. These we willingly do at the expense and even detriment of our own family, friends, and countrymen. Ultimately we do it at the expense of our own wellbeing.

The way economics all works out, is that if you want people to employ you or your company, they are going to need resources to do it. If you do not employ them they will not be able to employ you. The simplest way to think about it is like this. Imagine a meat farmer and a vegetable farmer existed for years making weekly trades. The vegetable farmer would show up each week with a weeks rations of vegetables and traded it for a weeks ration of meat. Then one day the vegetable farmer shows up and the meat farmer informs him that he will have to have cash. He got twice the amount of vegetables from the farm that uses illegal immigrants for the same ration of meat. A week later the meat farmer noticed a decline in orders. 3 weeks later he runs into a man who had been a regular customer, but had not seen weeks. The man explained that he had been working for the original vegetable farmer. Since so many people were buying their vegetables from the illegal immigrant employing farmer, the honest farmer had to lay him off. Wait there is another kick in the teeth. On his families reduced income, the only place they can afford to buy vegetables from is the illegal employer. Eventually the meat farmer had to close his doors.

Now imagine an entire economy buying from the cheap outside labor. All of the sudden the government doesn’t have employed tax payers. They need those taxes to pay for military expenses. How long do you think we would have our large volunteer military if the paychecks and benefits stopped coming/ not long I assure you. Most of its workforce is made up of recent high school grads that had not other economically sound options.

This is why it is as important that our policy makers be as aggressive with the economic aggression as they are with their “(war) s on whatever”. Our morality is not one that is designed to be advantaged in an economic struggle with people who have no problem using slave labor and unsafe environmentally unfriendly production techniques.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Christian VS. Islamic “Nations”

In a continuance of the thought stream from the last post, I have debated and discussed the difference between Christianity, at least as we perceive it here in the good old US of A, and Islam as it is perceived in “Islamic countries”. The whole debate can be summed up with a story told to me by a Jehovah’s Witness follower many years back.

Jim, I believe was his name, was a really great guy. He was not pushy with his religion but open conversation if you wanted. This was in about 1994 or so. Way before 9-11-01. He attended a religious study with a couple of Baptist Christians and a pair of Muslims. The question came up, “would you kill for your country? Even if you knew the people on the other side were of the same religion as you.” The Christians present said they would for their country, and were rather boisterous and proud of that fact. The Muslims said they would not die for their country over their religion. If their country “held the same values” as their religion then they would answer their countries call.

Christians, at least the style here in the US and many of the modern western societies, value not only separation of church and state, but patriotism over their faith. Islamic countries who value their governance to be interlaced with their spiritual beliefs, will often choose to obey religious leaders over their political officials. This is true even in Islamic countries where officials are elected.
If you can grasp that concept, you can understand why the west and the Middle East are oil and water. The reason Iraq could only be led (as needed by western business interest) by a tyrant ruler, and why it fell into Chaos after his fall. Understanding this reality allows one to see why Afghanistan is untamed, Saudi Arabia can not keep its people from becoming terrorist, and why Israel can not get a peace treaty to stick.

Here in the US, your spirituality has been legislated and re-enforced as something that is “personal” and “not for public conversation”. Two things you do not discuss, in a social circumstance is “religion and politics”. Islam, I have been told, is not just a religion, but “a complete way of life”. (Christianity was supposed to be the same way. The Amish are about as close to it as I know of that we come though.) Islam is used to set the rules that we would otherwise leave to our secular government. Acceptable dress, economics, social rules, and work requirements are all addressed by Islamic law. Laws that often require interpretation.

That leads us to another major difference. I think I have pointed this one out before here. But for relevance sake I will again. In the US, our federal makes laws our states must enforce. What is not covered by the federal can be legislated by the states. What isn’t covered by the sates, can be legislated by the counties, then the cities, then the family. There are some grey areas that are often debated over, but that is the general order of things. In contrast, Islamic cultures are often legislated first by the families. Of course there is strong influence by the clerics and spiritual leadership. You will find in these situations that the state and federal leadership court the local religious leaders and family heads in order to make a cohesive law. This is a concept that Bush administration either didn’t understand, or rightfully recognized that a “free, just, and fair” democracy, void of human rights abuses, couldn’t exist under those conditions.

Now, I am stating reality, not trying to justify or promote “Islamic” virtue. I am an agnostic for God’s sake. (I would like to see us live a more Christian lifestyle though.) As a matter of fact I would not want to live in a religion run environment. I thrive too much on rational and logical thoughts. Not that election of GW twice and 48% voting for John McCain and the unmentionable one doesn’t demonstrate a high level of both irrational and illogical thought. Secular democracy is certainly capable of it. The difference is the ability to correct it. Words passed down through some indeterminable entity from an unquestionable force is very hard to scientifically disprove. So ideals such as “women are irrational, illogical creatures who can not be trusted to vote.” Ok, bad example. But other policies that we held true in the past have been proven wrong.

SO how would you answer the question. Given the choice. Your country has drafted you into a war. Your preist tells you not to go. Who do you listen to?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

America The Nation Of Hypocristians

The NPR/ BBC radio show World Have Your Say (WHYS) recently asked its listeners if they view the US as a “Christian Nation.” Reviews were mixed with a few of the “live and local” audience in the Florida studio, from which WHYS was broadcasting from, were old and shallow in thought. They believed that simply saying you are “Christian” and/ or “believed in Jesus Christ” made you Christian. Others especially those outside America say that the there are no signs of Christianity in our policies.

Often on WHYS they ask ambiguous questions that leave a lot of grey area to be argued over. Patrons in turn engage in arguing pointless undefined posturing but no real sustenance. This issue was no different. My first thought when I read the topic line was, “how do you define ‘Christian’?” I have broached this subject on this site a few times in the past. Without an agreed definition, a valid debate can not be negotiated.

If you simply define being a “Christian” as on who believes that Jesus Christ existed, then I could agree that The United States is a “Christian” nation. In that light Hitler was a Christian, as well as many of the most heinous creatures to walk the earth in the past 2000 years or so. But I suspect that what makes people straighten up and proudly proclaim their faith is not merely the belief in the existence of a dude from 2000 years ago. What they find so agreeable is that they believe in the moral and social creed of the man and that makes for a more peaceful and harmonious society. They believe that what defines a Christian nation, is policies that reflect that value system.

I will field debate if I am wrong. As I have mentioned before I am an “agnostic Christian”. (That simply means I believe in the man and his plan, just not his source of information.) But it is my understanding that the basic attributes of Jesus Christ’s morality plan are pretty obvious. Don’t kill other people, don’t lie, don’t cheat on each other, don’t steal, and everybody is to be considered equal (so don’t hold yourself above them.) are ideals that had been around and Jesus just affirmed them. But there seemed to be a misconception or even a change in the way “God” wanted people to act towards people who didn’t comply with these rules. Jesus came to preach pacifism. Tolerance, forgiveness, self sacrifice, charity, and love were the new way to respond to those who sinned or wronged you. No worries, he promised a better life after this one, no matter how it ended.

Now above is what I would consider to be Christian traits. So in order to be a Christian nation, our policies and our people should mostly demonstrate these quality. In recent displays we have sought revenge, been driven by greed instead of charity, are intolerant to other religions and cultures, have murdered people who got in the accidental way of our revenge activities, have cheated countries out of their resources, have stole from the ones who wouldn’t let us cheat them, and have shown anything but “love” and expressed equality to our neighbors. By that definition I can not agree that the US is a Christian nation.

Many times during the broadcast, somebody would say, “The United States was founded upon Judaio-Christian values.” This of course is more bogus misrepresentation of the fact. It is a statement that shows that the “tongue-in-cheek” Christianity has been part of the US since the start. Let us not mince words here. The US was “founded” only because of the genocide of the Native American. They were considered heathens, had a price on their head, and treated like animals well after the establishment of the constitution. It started out by lying to them, then cheating then, then stealing from them, finally by killing them. They were never considered equal. That is with out even getting into the issues of slavery, women’s rights, and the wild west. Compare that to the above listed attributes preached by Jesus Christ, and you will see that the US was founded on the back of policies that were certainly not but Christian.

“But that was 400 years ago. I didn’t have anything to do with it. What do you want me to do about it?” For starters stop saying that the US was founded on Christian values. The truth is that Judaism and Christianity were founded on humanistic social values. As it turns out the concept of not killing, cheating, stealing, lying, and equality are psychologically pleasant attributes that promote harmony and good will with in a society. They are however “unnatural” traits to the animal kingdom. Now, isn’t more likely that a couple of more cerebral leader types were sitting around one day and one says, “These are great qualities, but how are we going to get our people to take them to heart?” A second guy says, “We could tell them that if they don’t when they die they will suffer great pain for all eternity and will never get to see their loved ones.” The first guy says, “But isn’t that lying?” The second guy justifies by saying, “ It is one lie to end all lies. Besides who is going to know we made it up. It isn’t like people come back from the dead to report.” And so it was that religion was created.

So is the United States a “Christian nation”? No not a chance. It wasn’t founded on Christian values, the acts and deeds of those who changed it into the country it is now were not Christian, and its current domestic and foreign policies are anything but Christian. However, a lot of people say they believe a guy named Jesus Christ lived 2000 years ago, and they are not afraid to say to on a census form. People often say that Muslim culture is not conducive to freedom and democracy. I would say that free enterprise and democracy are not conducive to Christianity.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Speech As It Should Be

If I were writing Obama’s Inaugural speech it would look something like this.

“America I would like to thank you for letting me play such an
important part in this American story. As your leader I plan to take a
different approach then many of my predecessors. To you, the American
citizens, I promise to lead not only with an open mind, but an open heart.
I also promise that I will not ‘stay the course’ when there is a looming iceberg
in front of me. I will not presume righteousness over rationalism. I
promise that I will listen, truly listen to both sides before making a
decision. No matter what the makeup of what the legislation is. I am
not so convinced of my own shallow and narrow perspective that I can’t assume
somebody else might have a wider and/ or deeper knowledge of an issue.

When I speak of change I am not only
referring to the leadership of recent history, but the even the approaches that
work so well in the past, that were implemented by well meaning
legislators. These have to change because the long history shows they
don’t work. Short fixes that get people re-elected have been the drug of
choice on capital hill for too many generations. I have some bad news for
you America, life as we know it is a thing of the past. The Idea of
spending more then we make, consuming more then we produce, and talking more
then we listen is fast nearing its bitter end. The age of our false
prosperity has started it’s, hopefully, slow crumble. The news and
perspective I give may not always be pleasurable, but it will always be

In the past leaders have asked you to “ask
what you could do for your country”, Americans through the generation have
answered that call. Whether it be the millions who have served in the
armed forces of this country, or the millions who have innovated and engineered
The United States into market domination you have paid your dues. However
those that run your country leached off your charity, negotiated damaging back
room deal, and scammed this country of its resources that were produced of these
sacrifices. In doing so they turn “The Land Of The Free” into the “Land of
the indentured servants”. So many have traded our social and physical
freedom for car loans, home loans, medical bills, education loans, and credit
debt. Many have taken jobs working long hours just to support families
they never see. They are not passing on the traditions and heritage of their
parents, because they are not actually involved in the raising of their own
children. Not because they wanted to, but because to have a chance
at getting ahead they had to. This is not freedom people. This is
not what our founding fathers promised. It is now time to ask your
country’s leaders, elected and business, now what will you do for me.

It is in the midst of this
turmoil that I assume the position as your leader. Two wars that should
have never been embarked upon. Increasing unemployment and decreasing
commerce. The rest of the world in unrest and our diplomatic and political
capital taxed beyond its means. In this time I promise to you that I have great
plans. Some may not work. These are uncharted times when only theory
and not practical knowledge have ever been plotted. But I have many tools
at my disposal, and most importantly I understand the causes of the problems we
face. The good news my fellow Americans, is that I plan on using these
tools to ensure a solid and real recovery that will lead to a sustainable
future. I promise to work towards a future that doesn’t leave our
children with only an option of indebted servitude just to raise a family.
I plan on doing it in a way that in not of social or communal in nature,
but using the free and fair values of our founding fathers. By returning
America to the people again.“

Something along that lines would encourage me to think he actually realizes what the next 4 years will bring. Somehow I don’t expect anything like this though. The more I see, the more I believe what I always have. Obama is going to bring this giant oil tanker to a halt in the wrong direction. However, I don’t think he understands what the right direction is once that happens.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Year, The Word, And The Resolution Is “Sustainability”

As the new year rolls in, it is time for a few activities. It is time to reflect on the past year’s successes and mistakes and learn from them. It is time to think about what one wants for the future. It is also a time to make resolutions. I was involved in all of these activities over this first week and realized something I have never quite fully recognized before. Almost everything we long for is about sustainability. Ecological, economical, social, and personal physical and mental sustainability is what we in no to obvious or direct ways are trying to achieve.

The eco fanatics for years have been talking about “ecological sustainability”. But what do they mean? defines it as “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” This is what “green technology” is about. In order to sustainable ecological practices, it requires understanding the reaction to every action. This is very difficult for modern man who has become so far removed from the world he host himself upon. In fact, even though it is akin to the people of the 15th century and beyond that still believe the earth was flat, many people still resist the indisputable fact that we are making life unsustainable for human life as we prefer it. This is in spite of the very long winded but cool explanation I presented in the post, Global Warming- Not Just Science It's Also a Diet Plan. I Guess even then I was making the connections.

I have been hearing some of the top resolutions this year. The first two are always the same. Loose Weight and quit smoking top the list in alternating order from poll to poll and year to year. However this year number three has been reported as sentiment along the lines of “spend less”, “get out of debt”, or “make better financial decisions.” Loosing weight and quitting smoking are both about achieving sustainable health. Let us face it, those of us who enjoy eating or smoking wouldn’t bother to consider cutting back or stopping the activity if it didn’t make us unhealthy. We adjust our behavior because our habits are unsustainable for the continued function of our bodies. The third resolution is the same. We are not pledging to restrain our spending habits because we have purchased all the stuff we have ever wanted and no longer find joy and buying stuff. No, it is because if we keep spending at the current rate, we are not going to be in a very “sustainable” spot even if we do manage to remain employed. Should such financial travesty visit our (or rather the bank’s) house, we want to improve our chances of not having to stand in soup lines with smelly bums and muscians. The truth is that all of our ills are a result of unsustainable activity.

They teach the “laws of conservation” in physics. They teach equal distribution in math. But these concepts should be applied and should be taught in every discipline. Working out problems of dealing with these laws requires considerations to both sides of the equation. The action is an explosion, the reaction is that it pushes against the wall of the jet engine. The action is water flows. The reaction is that the waterwheel turns. That is how it works in physics. There are studies that break those functions down even further to their atomic and elements. That kind of in depth is what needs to happen with politics and economics. If the action is making a purchase of cheap Chinese goods at Wal-mart, then what is going to be the reaction. If the action is placing a factory with good paying jobs in the middle of a farming community, then isn’t a rise on the cost of living for the entire community expected as the reaction? If the action is to send out $10 billion in economic stimulus money, what is the reaction going to be broken down to its atomic level. Where is the money coming from, where is it going to? If a foreign government supports, trains, and arms one side of a civil war, that is the action? What are all the possible reactions in the immediate and distant future? These concepts should be discussed in our classrooms as well.

So if you are looking to figure out a doable New Years Resolution, resolve to live a more harmonic life. Look to not spend as much on new stuff until you have paid off all of your old stuff. There are going to be a lot of businesses affected by a large portion of us who resolve to do that, but that is this going to be an issue they address with their own resolutions. Go back and find ways to enjoy your old stuff. If dieting, quitting smoking, or exercising are failed past endeavors, then instead, resolve to just find ways to be healthier. Take up a hobby that is fun, but also requires energy. If ideas such as getting more organized is on your mind, It means that you are going to have to allot time to do it. Think through your normal activities and figure out which ones are going to get either trimmed or eliminated to make time needed for organization. This applies to anything that is going to require time.

In the end we should all look to live our lives more aware of our impact. The bad news is that change is the hardest thing we creatures can do. We resist it even when it is necessary and we begrudge it when it comes forcefully. We all seek the path of least resistance, or at least the one that appears that way. The good news is that there is so much fat in our western style of living small changes can make a big impact. Start by questioning your own motives and beliefs. Dig a little deeper. Peel back one more layer of the onion then we normally would. You don't have to critacally think down to the atomic level, but just consider the question "then what would happen."

Happy 2009, all. Brace yourself. Change is coming like a drum solo whether you like it or not.

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